Habitual Learning in the Digital Age: Exploring Online Resources


  Habitual Learning in the Digital Age: Exploring Online Resources

This blog post will explore the numerous educational online resources available for students and professionals to help them learn, teach, and grow. We'll discuss what resources are available, which ones are best suited for various people and learning styles and how they can be used in a variety of different settings—including professional settings like hospitals or universities. We'll also offer some tips on how to get the most out of these resources. This post will be example-based and use our hospital example as a case study, but this could be used in other settings as well. Here's the idea: we want to explore how these resources can be used to help students, resident physicians, fellows and residents learn critical thinking and evidence-based medicine. To do this well, we'll have to think about what we're trying to accomplish and what the different readers of this blog post might want to see here. We'll start, then, by discussing some general strategies for how to use these resources.
Computers and the Internet are extremely useful in helping people learn. In the past, students had to learn on their own or go to a classroom (or medical school—and even then it was largely an offline experience) and sit there; now they can learn anywhere and anytime they want. But in order for this information to be truly valuable, it needs to be more than just something you read in a book or watch on YouTube; rather, that information should be used directly. When you take the time to work through an example or even just read a blog or article, you are exercising your mind in a way that enhances your critical thinking and problem solving skills. You are reinforcing what you know and learning new information by doing. This is the essence of Habitual Learning .
One of the most effective ways to do this is by directly connecting those online resources to activities in your professional life. For example, if you read an article about a new technique or medication, make sure that your next patient gets tested for it. Or if you learn something about a disease process on your laptop at home after work, make sure you discuss it with the team during rounds on Friday—even if they already know about it. This way, you are drawing on your professional experience to help you learn and sharpen your skills.
That's the idea behind the Serve-Learn cycle . If you read something on the internet that is interesting to you, take some sort of action—such as reading a blog post or sharing it with your friends. This will be an excellent opportunity to practice your critical thinking skills because now you have to think about what led you to choose that article or blog post in the first place and why you think it was something that would be useful for others. Whatever action you take, make sure that the information is grounded in some sort of concrete experience; everything should have some relevance to your work and what people need from medical professionals.
In addition to reflection, you should also keep an open mind when you're learning. It may sound obvious, but it's easy to think that because something is in the news or on Wikipedia, it is impossible for someone to misrepresent its content. As a medical student, I was prone to this type of thinking; I look back and realize that I was interpreting things based on my limited knowledge and not seeing the ways in which those stories could be used. Even though there are many things that are simply false or exaggerated in the news these days, there are still lessons to be learned by reading blogs and articles from reputable sources.
Finally, students should be aware of how their individual learning styles affect them when they're using online resources. Many people learn differently, and online resources are no different. Some people are visual learners and may get more out of reading a blog than they would from listening to an audio podcast. Others learn better through writing about what they learned, whereas still others might prefer to do a survey of the information first instead of simply skimming through something. Students should try to figure out which learning style most naturally suits them and then stick with it. I personally know a number of people who prefer watching videos, but reading their thoughts and analysis is much more meaningful for me personally. If you know what your learning style is, you'll be able to get even more out of the online resources available and adjust your use in order to get the most out of them.
What should medical students and residents do? Since we're starting with medical students as a case study in this blog post, we'll also suggest some strategies for how you can use these resources to learn critical thinking and evidence-based medicine. Of course, everyone who reads this is welcome to extrapolate the ideas for their own needs—this isn't just about medical education. For starters, as we mentioned above, it is best to look for online resources that are grounded in some concrete experience. Many students feel compelled to read everything they can get their hands on in order to get through the stacks of guidebooks and journal articles that are piled up around them. But this is a mistake, at least if you approach your learning in a critical way. Learning something about the human body is one of the most fascinating experiences one could ever have, but don't forget that there are other things out there that are just as interesting as medicine. Students should seek out articles and blogs that they find personally interesting or appealing; this will make it more likely that they will engage with what they're reading.
Lesson learned: Always try to engage in an activity after you've read something online.
If you've read something that you found interesting, make sure that you incorporate that information into your life. One of the benefits of technology is that it is possible for students to connect with all sorts of experts from all over the world. However, this only works if medical students are committed enough to take action . Make it a habit to reach out to an expert at least once a week and have a brief discussion about medicine, current events, or anything else relevant to your interests. If you're feeling shy or uninspired, try reaching out and simply asking if they have any thoughts on the latest news; most will be happy to share their thoughts with you even if it's just by e-mail.


As you've read, it is important for students to integrate information from online resources into their lives. That means that you can't just make a habit of searching for the latest and greatest medical topics; you should also find things that are interesting and appropriate for your level of expertise. There are many options out there, but it is up to the student to choose the ones that will be most effective in their own critical thinking education. It's not enough just to learn something from an online source; you should also try to think about how you can apply it in concrete ways through activities such as patient care or reaching out to experts.

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